12-2016 Evaluation of Groundwater Replenishment

Posted on November 22nd, 2016

We are very excited to dedicate our entire column this month to Soquel Creek Water District's Groundwater Replenishment Project, recently named Pure Water Soquel. Evaluation of the project is currently underway. Please take a moment to learn about our water supply challenges, the proposed project, and ways to learn more and to participate in the evaluation process.

Why Do We Need a New Water Supply?

The groundwater basin that we rely on for 100% of our water supply is currently not sustainable and seawater intrusion is present in monitoring water wells in the Pleasure Point, Aptos, Seascape, and La Selva Beach areas. The basin also provides water for over a thousand private well users, small mutual water systems, and municipal pumpers. We are currently facing several challenges including a critically over-drafted groundwater basin, seawater intrusion and contamination at our coastline, and meeting the State's mandate of basin sustainability by 2040. To address these challenges and ensure a reliable water supply for current and future generations, our community needs a new and more reliable water supply.

Community Helped Create Long-Term Road Map & Water Supply Options

The District developed an action-oriented, multi-faceted Community Water Plan in 2015 based on community input and it serves as the District's roadmap to the State's required sustainability goal by 2040. The key components include water conservation, groundwater management, and securing supplemental supplies. Conservation and groundwater management are helpful, but not sufficient to protect the groundwater basin from being further contaminated by seawater intrusion. A new source of supply is still needed. Three different supply options are being considered with Pure Water Soquel selected as its preferred project to focus on in the near term. The District continues to carry forward two other options: river water transfers with the City of Santa Cruz and desalination from Moss Landing. This is because a solution may likely involve a combination or variety of supplemental water supply options to ensure reliability in the long term.

How Does the Pure Water Soquel Project Work?

The groundwater replenishment project, also known as Pure Water Soquel, will take municipal wastewater from the Santa Cruz County Sanitation District or the City of Santa Cruz and using advanced water purification methods produce 1,500 acre-feet (488 million gallons) per year of high-quality water. The purified water would then be injected into the ground to replenish the groundwater basin and provide a seawater barrier. The project is currently undergoing environmental review.

Is Advanced Purified Water Already in Use?

Many communities with long-term water shortages have either implemented or are currently evaluating the use of advanced purification for their future water supply projects. Over two dozen communities in California are evaluating using purified water to enhance their water supplies and a few are already pilot-testing or actually using purified water. Orange County Water District has been operating a groundwater replenishment system for over 40 years and recently reached over 200 billion gallons of purified water produced for groundwater replenishment. Utilities in San Diego, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey, and Silicon Valley have demonstration sites and are seriously considering purified water as a part of their water supply portfolios.

What is the Advanced Water Purification Process?

The advanced water purification process involves a multi-stage process of micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light with advanced oxidation. This is a similar treatment process that has been used successfully in the Space Station for many years. Purified water meets all state and federal water quality regulations as required by law for groundwater replenishment and includes required monitoring and testing to ensure water quality. These include guidelines and requirements related to constituents of emerging concern which includes pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

Beneficial Reuse plus Drought-Proof Supply plus Groundwater Replenishment plus Seawater Intrusion Barrier

There are many benefits to Pure Water Soquel. It will provide a reliable, drought-proof water supply with beneficial reuse of an existing source. It will eliminate about one-quarter of the eight million gallons a day (average) of treated wastewater that goes out into the Pacific Ocean. The project will also replenish the groundwater basin and provide a barrier against seawater intrusion which prevents seawater from moving farther inland and contaminating wells. Southern Santa Cruz county, Monterey county, and many other coastal communities around the world are also challenged with seawater intrusion.

An important call-to-action we heard from customers was to develop and implement a project in a timely manner before seawater intrusion contaminates our drinking water wells. Water rights, that are typical of surface water projects, and marine issues, that are typical of desalination projects, do not apply to the District's purified water project, thus potentially reducing the time to acquire permits, meet regulations, and implement a project.

Environmental Review & How to Get Involved in the Public Process

We need your input! The District is preparing an environmental impact report (EIR) on the Pure Water Soquel proposed project. The first step in the EIR process is called scoping, which will define the issues that people think should be evaluated in the EIR. During the 35-day scoping comment period (November 16 to December 21, 2016) the public will have the opportunity to provide their input on the environmental topics, potential effects, possible mitigation measures, and range of alternatives to be analyzed in the project EIR. Scoping comments may be submitted at the public scoping meetings (December 7, Twin Lakes Church in Aptos), by mail, or email between November 16 to December 21, 2016. Comments must be postmarked or received via email by December 21, 2016, for consideration in the Draft EIR. Please submit comments on the proposed project to:
Melanie Mow Schumacher, P.E.
Associate Manager - Special Projects
P.O. Box 1550
Capitola, CA 95010

Email Pure Water Soquel

For more information, visit the Pure Water Soquel page.

As always, if you have any questions about this month's topic or anything else related to Soquel Creek Water District, feel free to email Melanie Schumacher or call 831-475-8501, ext. 153.